For the third year in a row, the Timberwolves failed to make the playoffs. It seems like another lifetime, in the 2004 Western Conference Finals, that the Wolves were on the verge of something special.
Kevin Garnett, arguably one of the greatest players in NBA history, has been paired with a team of vagabonds throughout most of his career.
Players like Isaiah Rider, Stephon Marbury, Latrell Sprewell, Sam Cassell and Wally Szczerbiak have come and gone.
The current Wolves roster is saddled with long-term deals of underachieving veterans like Mark Madsen, Troy Hudson, Mike James, Trenton Hassell and Marko Jaric.
As Charles Hallman of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder said at the press table during Wednesday's season-ending loss to Memphis, "The Wolves have triple mortgaged their franchise and they are in a buyers' market with no takers. Is Kevin McHale and Glen Taylor willing to bring in the bulldozer or continue to use Josephine the Plumber' to fix things?"
But, with all things considered, a bright spot lies in the Wolves' youth of Randy Foye, Craig Smith, Rashad McCants and the June draft.
Foye, a rookie first-round pick out of Villanova, has settled comfortably into the point guard position.
Wolves coach Randy Wittman had measured praise for Foye after the Memphis loss.
"Randy played well," Wittman said. "But Randy's fluctuations are between settling for jump shots and being aggressive."
Foye echoed such sentiments. "It was the toughest season I've been a part of," he said. "It's been a learning experience.
"I'm going to take this offseason and learn from my mistakes. I think I have to work on my defense a little bit more and come back a better defensive player, like Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Tony Parker."
The production of Smith, a rookie second-round pick from Boston College, has been a pleasant surprise. Smith has found a niche as a big man off the bench. He plays with intensity on the boards and fights for every rebound.
"We had our ups and our downs," Smith said. "That's something that's going to be with me going into the second season. I'd never imagined the league to be like this. But it's going to be something that makes me better."
Intensity is a key-word for McCants, a second-year guard who played on the 2005 North Carolina national championship team.
"We have to play with high intensity," McCants said. "This season I think we've always had a chance to win and be in playoff position But we have to develop consistency where guys play hard."
Having missed more than half the season, recovering from microfracture knee surgery, McCants doesn't dwell on the past.
"I don't look back," he said. "The past is the past. It's been a long year. I'm just looking at the future. We can't use this season as a basis for next season."
If Wittman has his way, next season could see major changes.
"This team needs a shakeup," he said. "We have to find guys who care for one another, that will play for one another. I just don't think we have that with this mix of guys right now."
Looking at future player acquisitions, Wittman describes the Wolves as a jump-shooting team so the onus will be to find players who can create things at the basket and get to the free-throw line.
At Thursday's postseason news conference, vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale echoed those sentiments.
"Overhauling rosters is not as easy as it sounds, but changing two or three people ... three people is 25 percent of your roster, (you can make) some significant changes without getting nine new players on your roster," McHale said.
"I think we need to get bigger across the front," McHale added. "We don't protect the paint, and that's why we have to get bigger. We have to get guys in there that will protect the paint more for us."
TREVOR WILLIAMS, sports copy editor, may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5866.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.